Lawrence Brockett

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Lawrence Brockett (1725-1768) was the youngest of five sons born to Lawrence Brockett and Anne Birkbeck. He inherited from his parents Headlam Hall, a country house near Gainford, County Durham. The house was originally built by Henry Birkbeck, Lawrence’s maternal great great grandfather.

Brockett had been tutor to James Lowther (1736-1802), 1st Earl of Lonsdale. Lowther later married the daughter of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. Stuart had been tutor to King George III, and was from May 1762 to April 1763 his first appointment as prime minister.

Brockett pipped Thomas Gray at the post in 1762 to be appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, a sinecure in the gift of the King. Gray succeeded Brockett in this position after the latter's death.

Brockett died on July 12th 1768 after a riding accident while returning from Hinchingbrooke, near Huntingdon, to Cambridge. He was buried according to tradition at Gainford by torchlight, probably the church's last nocturnal burial. An ancient foliated cross in the porch of Gainford church, Co. Durham, is superinscribed as memorial to Lawrence Brockett, MA, BD of Trinity College, Cambridge.

"Professor Brockett was the last person who was buried, according to the custom of the family, by night and with torchlight. There are several persons now living who retain a vivid recollection of the awful solemnity of the scene as the procession moved slowly on with its line of torches down the long and shady lane from Headlam to the last resting-place of the dead." (Walbran, J. R., 1846. The Antiquities of Gainford, in the County of Durham; comprising the baronial and ecclesiastical history of that place, and of Barnard Castle: With accounts of the township of Headlam,and the chapelry of Denton etc. (Ripon))

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